New Zealand PM Chris Hipkins to visit Canberra
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is visiting Canberra next week in his first overseas trip in the role.
Mr Hipkins, who replaced Jacinda Ardern last week, will take a day trip next Tuesday to visit his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.
“The trans-Tasman relationship is New Zealand’s closest and most important, and it was crucial for me that my first overseas trip as Prime Minister was to Australia,” Mr Hipkins said.
This year is a banner year for trans-Tasman relations, marking 40 years of the Closer Economic Relations (CER) free trade agreement and half a century of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.
There are also many live issues, including a review of citizenship rights in Australia and cross-ditch deportations.
Last July Mr. Albanese announced at a joint press conference with Ms Ardern in Sydney that his government would reconsider – and possibly relax – the pathways to citizenship for Kiwis in Australia.
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders call Australia home but do not have access to many benefits – including welfare payments or access to education – that Australians living in NZ enjoy.
The thorny issue of deportations is also permanently on the table.
The NZ government has long railed against Australian Kiwi criminals being deported to New Zealand, even if they have lived in Australia for many years.
Mr Albanese indicated he was willing to review that practice, but ruled out abandoning it entirely.
Mr. Hipkins’ trip is similar to that undertaken by Ms Ardern in June last year, when she became the first world leader to visit Mr. visited Albanese at the office and presented him with a bunch of indie Kiwi records.
Mr Albanese was the only world leader Ms Ardern told she would stand before her bombshell announcement last week.
Her exit means new leader-to-leader ties will have to be forged, although Mr Hipkins and Mr Albanese already share a friendship that predates their rise to national leadership.
The two shared a “very warm” conversation after Mr. Hipkins was confirmed as Ms Ardern’s successor, with the Australian prime minister the first to call and offer congratulations.
Mr Hipkins offered good wishes to Australians on January 26, describing NZ’s allies as “our great mates” and “one of our closest partners in the world”.
“The stronger our relationship, and the closer our people-to-people links, the more prosperous and resilient New Zealand and Australia will become,” Mr Hipkins said.
“As well as economic issues, I look forward to discussing our many shared security priorities within the bilateral relationship, and to our engagement in the Pacific and wider Indo-Pacific regions.”
The two leaders will also meet later this year as part of the annual Australia New Zealand Leaders’ Dialogue, which is scheduled to be in NZ.